Bach to the Future

Discovered in a box of birthday greetings just last month, a previously unknown aria by Johann Sebastian Bach is already getting rave reviews.

"Beautiful and enchanting," says the British conductor who will stage its debut. "Full of a natural pastoral joy," writes a British music critic who's seen the score. "Self-contained and of exquisite quality," comments the director of the Bach Archive foundation in Leipzig, Germany.

The foundation announced the authentication of this short piece for soprano, harpsichord, and strings this week, and with that, unveiled a stirring tale of a rare work nearly lost in a fire.

Bach had composed the aria in 1713 for the birthday of one of his German patrons, the Duke of Weimar. Set to a 12-stanza poem titled "Everything With God and Nothing Without Him," the aria lay hidden in a box containing other good wishes.

Bach researcher Michael Maul was able to uncover it because the box had been set aside just before a fire destroyed the library which housed it.

Little of the composer's work from this period survives. Nearly 300 years later, this aria - so different from his more serious, involved compositions - comes to light as a reminder of inspiration's staying power and beauty.

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